THUNDER BAY – The eight-year-old girl tragically killed in a domestic incident early Monday morning was angelic and well-mannered, say her upstairs neighbours.
Barb Fraser is close friends with Kim Stajkowski, who lives in the upstairs unit of the house. Living so close, Fraser got to know the family of the young girl, which lived in the downstairs apartment.
“(She) was an amazing little girl with Kim’s two kids. She would come upstairs every day and ask if she could play with them,” Fraser said Monday. “She was just a beautiful girl…Her soul was beautiful.”
Police have said the eight-year-old girl died after a domestic assault by her mother’s ex-boyfriend, a 38-year-old man whose identity has not been released, at her apartment on the 400 block of Donald Street West.
The man died later that morning, shortly after being arrested by police, from wounds sustained prior to being in custody.
The mother suffered what police called “non-life threatening injuries” during the attack. There was also a young boy in the apartment at the time of the assault, who was said to be physically unharmed as a result of this incident.
Fraser had been staying in the apartment for the past 10 days to help Stajkowski look after her two children while Stajkowski worked.
She said the ex-boyfriend had lived with the girl’s mother up until last week, when the mother ordered him to leave. The police were said to have been involved at that point.
The upstairs neighbours became aware of the situation just before 3 a.m. Monday morning.
On the day of the incident, the neighbours say they believe the suspect entered the house through the side door connecting both units, before breaking through the door to the upstairs apartment.
Fraser awoke after hearing the door smash. When she entered the hallway she said she heard Stajkowski yelling, demanding the suspect leave her apartment.
Stajkowski shoved him out of the building and into the yard before barricading the side door. Fraser then immediately dialed 911.
The man was repeatedly asking for the whereabouts of his ex-girlfriend, Fraser said.
It was only once the man was outside that Stajkowski realized he had a knife. At that point she rushed to the downstairs unit to check on the woman and her two children.
Once downstairs Stajkowski discovered the horrific scene.
“I heard a scream like I had never heard before. It was blood curdling,” Fraser said.
Stajkowski called for Fraser, who knows CPR, to join her and try to help the girl. There was nothing that could have been done, Fraser said.
Police and other emergency responders arrived at the scene in a matter of minutes after the 911 call was placed. In the meantime, Stajkowski was huddled with her children upstairs, unaware of where the man had gone and if he planned to return.
Unable to re-enter either apartment, the man fled the scene prior to police arriving.
Officers searched the surrounding area, with the assistance from a canine unit, seeking the suspect. Residents in the area were advised at the time to remain in their homes.
Four hours later police had found the suspect.
A suspicious vehicle was reported to police at about 7:30 a.m. on Wharton Road, a small rural dead-end side street off Oliver Road west of the Thunder Bay Expressway.
Responding officers discovered the vehicle and found that it matched the description of the one belonging to the suspect.
A standoff ensued with OPP tactical units also responding. The man was brought into custody around 11:30 a.m., shortly after two loud bangs were heard and smoke could be seen rising from the end of the road.
The suspect was rushed from the scene in an ambulance and died a short time later. Police on Monday said the injuries appeared to have been sustained prior to being apprehended.
Police are continuing their investigation while the province’s Special Investigations Unit, a civilian agency tasked with investigating whenever there is a death, serious injury or sexual assault involving police, probes the circumstances surrounding the man’s death.